August 31, 2010

Blood Sport: Become a 5v5 master (tips and tricks)

Default to damage

Oh, Wrath of the Lich King, how we had such great hopes. Damage is almost always the most successful strategy. Defaulting to damage is something I have to explain often, especially when I start playing with new teammates who are trying to push for their first gladiator title.

Players who have high technical skill (for instance, being able to Spell Reflect an escaping druid's Nature's Grasp) often try to win games by doing things more "skilled" than the enemy. They'll preach for seemingly endless hours about how often they Counterspelled their opponent's Incinerates, yet they still lost the match. Sometimes, the opportunity cost it takes to interrupt one of your spells to interrupt an opponent is better spent by doing damage, especially if an enemy is low on health. Why bother Counterspelling an enemy damage spell when you can get a kill? [EDIT: I removed confusing language concerning interrupts and global cooldowns.]

These same players look down on opposing compositions for being "faceroll" or "noob comp" because they win games by just pumping damage into the enemy. There's a reason why "bad players" can get to high ratings by using certain compositions -- damage is the premier strategy.

The danger of cool things

I'm not going to sit here and type out how awesome I am because I've never fallen into the "cool things are cool" trap. I'll freely admit that I still struggle with doing damage rather than cool stuff -- especially on my warlock.

When we were going for No. 1 in 5v5 a few seasons ago, I was doing almost everything except slinging fire at enemies. I would have every enemy DPS locked down with Curse of Tongues or Curse of Weakness -- except for our kill target, of course. I would CoT, Fear, Spell Lock, Shadowfury and Death Coil opposing healers until they were blue in the face.

What I should have been doing, however, was just casting a simple Curse of the Elements > Immolate > Chaos Bolt > Searing Pain > Conflagrate rotation into our kill target every chance I got. My teammates mentioned how little damage I was doing against high-rated teams (teams where I thought complex strategies were more effective), compared to the enormous amount of damage I was putting out against low-rated teams. I made the transition and we fared much, much better against the Top Ten teams on our battlegroup.

Pay less attention to addons

Many people think great arena players need to be paying attention to many, many things at once. Some people think great arena players need to always know when trinkets are available, or they somehow keep track of each enemy cooldown.

That's not the case. At all.

Top arena players understand what's going on in the game at the largest level possible. Understanding the big picture slows down the game and allows you to think inside other player's roles. It gives you insight as to when you should burn a cooldown or when you should beware an enemy is about to use a cooldown on you.

I don't use Afflicted 3 or any similar mods to track enemy cooldowns -- they waste precious screen space, and you generally shouldn't need mods like this if you take the time to understand the big picture. Plus, using mods like Afflicted desensitizes you to the natural ons and offs of cooldowns.

When a paladin casts Divine Shield, I can generally tell (within +/- 0.5 seconds) when his bubble is coming down, even though I have no way to tell exactly when it's going to dissipate (or be Mass Dispelled). On my shaman and priest, (Purge, Dispel Magic) I have enemy buffs (on my target and focus) enabled. On everyone else, I don't even bother and turn buffs off. I don't need to see if someone has a Sacred Shield or Mark of the Wild on them; it will make no difference to what I'm doing.

This isn't because I'm magical. I don't have some telepathic superpower. I don't have a sixth sense. What I do have, however, is enough arena experience to understand the game at large and look at the bare nubbins of important arena functions. It sounds more complex than it is ... (More on this next week.)

Figuring out and adapting to your teammates' playstyles

You get better at figuring out and adapting to your teammates' playstyles the more you play with different individuals. Everyone who has tried arena has met that guy on trade who wanted to play a few games -- and it just sucked. He was doing everything you didn't expect, and he was expecting you to do everything you didn't. Your playstyles were completely different, and you failed game after game.

Likewise, if you've been playing long enough, you've probably met a player or two who has meshed exceptionally well with you. Perhaps you're not rank 1 quality yet, but you've done better with them than you ever expected previously. You probably had similar ideas about how arenas should go, and your victories reaffirmed that.

I've played with holy paladins who cast Hammer of Justice once every 10 arena games. Other holy paladins use it on cooldown. Some druids love Cycloning enemy healers; some don't do it at all. Some Cyclone enemy DPS when they're at 10 percent health so they don't get receive heals. Then they charge up Starfire to help aid in killing blows with the DPS at 10 percent. Everyone has a different playstyle.

Having a different playstyle isn't wrong. Restoration druids usually find they fare better either with melee or spellcasters because of their playstyle -- offensive Cyclones on healers are much more important to a spell-burst team than they are to a team that focuses on melee; that's just the way arena works.

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